I know it’s April Fool’s day, but this is no laughing matter. Writers can be delicate souls, and the list of things that can send us spiralling into hysterics (not the good kind) is longer than any of us would like to admit. And certainly too long for me to attempt to list here.
But there is one thing above all else that is all but guaranteed to reduce even the most thick-skinned and strong-willed of writers to a quaking, quivering wreck.
I am, of course, talking about the unique torture that is sitting in the same room as someone while they read your work. And yes, this comes from a place of experience.
Bitter, painful experience.
It has happened on more than one occasion, but one sticks in my mind from a couple of years ago (yes, it has taken me that long and much therapy – not really – to be able to articulate that day).
A few Christmases back, I had written a short story for each of my family members. If you want a taste of those tales, they are in the Short Stories section of this website. My particular favourite is The Spinster Queen.
But I digress.
During the Christmas break, my dad and I were in the living room, both reading, and my dad kept laughing into his Kindle. This is not an uncommon occurrence, apart from the fact that he didn’t instantly share what was making him laugh (a bit of a family trait).
In my foolishness, I asked him what he was reading.
“Your short stories,” he replied.
Now, the rational among you will think that I would have been extremely flattered that my work had made him laugh.
You would be wrong! That sort of reasoned thought didn’t occur to me until much later.
Upon realising that he was reading my work (and had been for the entire time we had been sat together), the cold sweats and heart palpitations started, together with the nagging, spiralling voice:
“Are you sure you couldn’t have done better? What if he’s laughing at it, not with it? Staring at him isn’t going to let you read his mind to find out what he’s really thinking! Just think about something else! As if!! Where’s the door??!!”
This may seem like a rather strange, and perhaps extreme, reaction to some, but here’s what you need to understand: writers are delighted to know that people have read their work … AFTER THE FACT. Not during.
Reading (like writing) is a solitary and fairly personal experience. And being present while someone reads what you have poured your heart and soul into feels like a massive invasion of privacy in more ways than one. First it feels like, as the writer, you are encroaching on, and altering, the reader’s enjoyment of the story. And secondly, when a reader reads your work in your presence, it feels somehow like they can simultaneously read your thoughts.
The other infuriating fact about the whole situation is that the writer is the only one who feels any sort of unease. The reader is blissfully unaware that they should even consider being uncomfortable in this situation – a fact that the writer will no doubt dwell on at length, and even be compelled to compose a blog post on the matter!
I was not exaggerating earlier when I described this as a truly unique form of torture. To put the feeling into words, it is like someone scraping their nails down the inside of your skull.
So please, dear, lovely readers, be kind to your writer friends. If they hand you their work to read, have the courtesy to leave the room before you start devouring it. Or allow them to beat a hasty retreat.
Unless, of course, you are aware they have killed off one of your favourite characters, in which case I believe you are well within your rights to lock the door and make them suffer.
And suffer they will.
Now available for Pre-Order
“Every choice you’ve ever made has brought you here …”
Nick’s quiet life is shattered when he follows Megan through a mysterious mirror and discovers a vast network of parallel worlds, all connected by the Eternity Mirrors.
Unable to return permanently to his own world, and pursued by terrifying shadow creatures, Nick joins a group of Outsiders – others who have left their worlds – at their refuge in the Rift Between the Worlds. But life in the Rift is far from simple. Devoid of all natural resources, Nick and the Outsiders must venture into the worlds to scavenge what they need while evading the ominous shadows.
With danger waiting in every world, and secrets lurking in the Rift, do the Outsiders have what it takes to survive?
And can Nick come to terms with his new life?